Sunday 17 December 2017

Madhouse Diaries : Sterrenstoet, the Procession of the Christmas star (Bruges Christmas Parade)

Yesterday, we popped to Bruges in Belgium (about 45 minutes away) to see their Christmas market and soak up some of their Christmas spirit, which they always have in bucketloads. We'd just wandered out of a fantastically festive "Christmas World" shop when I heard drummers at the corner of the road and went to see what was going on. Talk about being in the right place at the right time ! It was the beginning of a Christmas parade and suddenly a crowd of people started lining the streets.

Straight after the marching band were a group of people who looked like they'd stepped straight out of a Dickens novel and were on their way to the workhouse ! They had collection boxes so we guessed that this was a charity event.

 After the poor people, it was the turn of the rich folk, in their finery, and this led on to Mary and Joseph riding past on a donkey.

 We'd worked out by now that it was a representation of the Christmas story, with the idea of solidarity and giving to the poor thrown in for good measure.

 I think (but I could be totally wrong !) that the rest of the scenes showed the different groups of people following the star to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus.

There were kings on giant horses and another black-faced character - it's funny, I was just talking about this last week when St Nicolas came to town.

I commented on the lack of shepherds but looking at videos online, they did have a herd of sheep in the procession last year !

More groups of worshippers - maybe these were the three wise men?

The manger scene closed the Christmas story part of the parade.

Closing the show, and providing the festive soundtrack, was a man playing carols on a carillon.

Most of the belfries and clock towers in the North of France and Flanders have carillons, so we're quite used to hearing songs being chimed out, but it was still quite impressive to watch him play.

It was a totally unexpected and magical way to start our festive jaunt to Bruges. When we got home, I looked up online what we'd seen and discovered it's the Sterrenstoet, or the Procession of the Christmas star : "The Star procession began in the 1930s. During the Second World War, the tradition was interrupted for several years. The Sterrenstoet depicts the Christmas story on the basis of various scenes. A choir brings Christmas songs and walks with animals. The organizers are all volunteers who want to raise money with the procession. It is the "box shakers" in the procession who encourage the spectators to make a financial contribution. The Star procession wants to point out the need for solidarity during the Christmas season. After all, the collected money always goes to a Bruges social project. Since 2002, the Sterrenstoet has been touring the Bruges city center twice during the Christmas period. In recent years, the procession is being renewed step by step."

Country Kids


  1. This is beautiful, thanks for sharing all the pics and information :).

    1. It really was pure luck - a case of being in the right place at the right time !

  2. Wow,what timing to be there for the parade. It's lovely to see something properly about Christmas and not the usual materialism. The horses look magnificent and was that Black Peter in there with St Nick? They used to come to our school but it's too non-PC now. Also great to see a Carillon - only talking about them with my daughter yesterday. Really interesting read #CountryKids

    1. Yes, I wrote a post about St Nicolas coming to Dunkerque with Zwarte Piet (black Pete) on 6th December funnily enough - I mentioned it being non PC but the local story in Dunkerque is that he's black from soot so it's not racist. There's a big hooha about "Les Noirs" in Dunkirk carnival at the moment too.

  3. What an interesting event to happen upon, I bet it was magical to watch the procession pass by. I'm sure the kids loved spotting the different characters from the nativity as they walked by. There truly is nothing like being in the right place at the right time, I bet the kids want to go and see it again next year now too!

    Thanks for sharing with me on #CountryKids.

    1. We have almost too much stuff going on at Christmas so there's never enough time to do it all, specially as it's all free !


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